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Tipping: An accepted rip-off?

18 May 2012, 13:01

The concept of tipping is something very much associated with the American way of life, especially considering the basic service jobs such as doormen, taxi-drivers and hotel porters, requiring a reach for your pesky pocket clinging change.

The rest of the working world soon caught up with the concept of paying more for something than the advertised price, making tipping as acceptable, and inevitable in today’s way of life.

The restaurant industry is certainly more associated with tipping than any other, with the end-of-dinner gratuity paying for a range of things, varying from a university degrees to the month’s rent.

Most restaurants don’t even pay their waiters a wage or salary, yet some waitresses manage to rap-up more in a night than some lawyers and doctors do in a day. This then illustrates the manner in which we accepted tipping as a way of life.

Most people consider the quality of service and food in a restaurant, when deciding on the amount to be tipped, in contrast with years past, when such factors decided whether there would be a tip at all.

The mere acceptance by all parties concerned that tipping would be involved, is not in dispute anymore, with the restaurant owner saving wages, whilst simultanously ensuring a measure of good service through effectively selling his goodwill to the waiter.

On the other hand, the waiter is ensured an income, as long as he or she performs, and ensure the kitchen staff is on par with what the diner expects. The customer then, completes this circle, by rating the kitchen and service, in terms of what they are willing to part with...voluntarily.

In my view, that’s all fine, as long as it’s worth it.

Until a couple of years ago, I never even considered the possibility of tipping other industries in the same form and fashion, until I read that it was customary to tip petrol station attendants.

Immediately it made sense, as in my opinion, their work is generally highly underrated. Firstly, they deal with your irate reach for your wallet when you once again fork out money almost equal to a car tyre, every time you fill up.

They are always friendly and wash hundreds of windscreens at no set charge, simply because their boss told them to do so. They poke around under your bonnet, handling your oil, and grease themselves up in the process, when they aren’t fixing a tyre or checking the pressure.

All this, at no charge...

Obviously, I immediately started tipping them... and tipping them well, in a sense trying to make up for lost tips of years gone by.

However, in South Africa, and we’re possibly the only country in the world that does this, we have the luxury to deal with another scourge in the tipping industry...the everyday car guard... every time you make your way through a parking lot.

As if it’s not enough that you have to pay the municipality for this, you need to pay someone to help you park, and ...wait for it...drive away...something I always wonder how we managed without, all those years ago...

The car guard then.

Formalised begging at its best I would say. Any idiot with a bright coloured bib could just walk up to anyone handling their car keys, and most people automatically reach for money.

We’ve grown so accustomed to them, that we are willing to pay a couple of bucks just to avoid the nuisance factor they are drenched with. In some cases, they ask for money up-front, something you always pay as a type of extortion tax, just so your car doesn’t fall prey to nail-art.

Car guards...got to love them...

A true product of South African entrepreneurship; a monument to what can be achieved when monetary reward is hungered for by the jobless masses.

The people who single handedly, managed to undo all the hard work the waitresses of the world have spent so much time nurturing through the years.

The reason I say this, is that it makes everyone more attentive to the value achieved with small fees, urging some people (hopefully no one I know) to jump on their calculators to work out the draconically exact, ten percent.

In some instances it is clear then that tipping is expected, and deserved for that matter.

In others, it is exposed as the rip-off we’ve come to expect of it, depending on people for something completely different than the reward of good service, but rather the freedom to roam the sidewalks without hindrance.

So, are car guards the antagonist to the tipping culture in South Africa? Don’t be ridiculous...

It does however supply a new measure of what deeds would merit a tip, and possibly, have us place a higher benchmark of quality thereon, possibly injecting the study finances to a waitress who will become the doctor that save your life some day...however, at the rate some get tipped, why would they?

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